The Problem With Pink

October 24, 2017

I have a complicated relationship with the colour pink. I’m going to try and explain why.

Once upon a time, in what seems like a lifetime ago, I was a Project Manager. I wore suits to work, juggled Gantt charts and multi million pound budgets, and went to lots of meetings – quite a few of them in hard hats, and most of them with men. As one of very few women on the project I was working on, I was proud to be there. Proud to be a woman in a man’s world, and I enjoyed proving that I was good enough to be there, knew what I was doing, and wouldn’t be bossed around. I was also a lot younger, and wasn’t yet tired of proving myself, again, and again, and again…

Pink scarves, pink blouses, pink shoes, pink skirts, pink knickers.

While I was working in this world, I developed a bit of a thing for pink. Not only was I the only woman in the room, but I was going to make sure all those men noticed it. I wore something pink every single day. Deliberately. I liked the colour, it suited my complexion, and I wore it. Pink scarves, pink blouses, pink shoes, pink skirts, pink knickers. Not all at once mind (I’m not Dolores Umbridge) just something pink, every day. I was the girly looking woman in a man’s world showing them all that pink and frilly did not mean thick and silly.

Moving on more years than I care to remember, with children added into the mix I was glad to get to work without porridge on my clothes or baby sick down my shoulder. Careful choosing of clothes fell by the wayside (other than trying not to slot my daughter and son into pink and blue pigeonholes). I wore whatever came to hand (and whatever would fit over my ever changing body shape). A spell of full time motherhood meant no shopping, and no dress code. And now, working at Singletrack, suits are not required. Looking smart is not an issue, and I’m generally to be found wearing whatever packs easily into my rucksack for the commute, whatever bike wear I’m currently testing, or whichever branded t-shirt has just arrived in the post.

So many colours. So much choice.

Some things haven’t changed. I’m still a woman working in what is, largely, a man’s world. In the Singletrack office we’re now at a 50/50 split in the Editorial team, but in the wider industry the split isn’t so even. My impression is that this is changing for the better, but if I head out on a press trip I can be fairly confident of being the only woman there. It has its advantages – you can be pretty sure you won’t be asked to share a room with anyone.

But what has changed is my attitude to pink. I still have pink in my wardrobe. On days when I’m wearing ‘proper’ clothes, I’ll wear them. Practically all the flowers in my garden are pink – or purple. My toenails are currently painted turquoise. But on the bike I’ll do all I can to avoid pink, and its purple and turquoise cousins. Not because I don’t like the colours, or because I don’t want to stand out on the trail in the way that I chose to stand out on the building site. Instead it’s because all too often, wearing pink is not a choice – it’s the only option.

Look at a catalogue of cycle clothing from so many manufacturers and what you’ll find is a men’s section – maybe a few pages of it – with a selection of cuts and styles of shorts and jerseys, each in two or three different colours, with interesting panels or patterns. Those colours and patterns are clearly the product of a design process. Someone has looked at bike colours for the year ahead, or trainers, or racing car colour schemes, or something and pulled them all together in a mood board or whatever as inspiration for what will be this year’s fashion forward collection for the male rider.

Put a bloke in something from the early 90s and they’ll look retro. Put a woman in something from the same era and you’d be hard pushed to tell it wasn’t this season’s

Flip now to the women’s section, and all too often you’ll find it significantly smaller than the men’s. Fewer cut options, smaller size ranges, fewer colours. Pink, purple, turquoise, maybe black. Year in, year out. Commercially I can understand why companies might offer only two styles of women’s shorts against men’s five or six, but there’s no reason why there should be any less effort put into the design of that more limited range. Where is the mood board that inspires the women’s range? Why does the men’s range change with years and seasons, but the women’s colour options stay the same? Put a bloke in something from the early 90s and they’ll look retro. Put a woman in something from the same era and you’d be hard pushed to tell it wasn’t this season’s. This is all doubly disappointing given that women’s specific clothing is one of the few women’s specific things that I think is actually beneficial to the experience of being on a bike.

Yes there are companies out there who are doing a better job of creating visually and functionally interesting clothing for women. Some of them even choose to produce some of their items in pink. But for me, pink (and purple and turquoise) are sullied by association with the ‘pink it and shrink it’ approach of (hopefully) years gone by. The colours have, to my mind, come to represent lazy design, and women as an afterthought.

Now I’m not decrying anyone else that wants to wear pink. Go for your life – I really don’t mind what you wear on the trail as long as you are out there and having fun. Whatever kit you choose, I hope it works for you – that whichever technical features you bought it for deliver, that you feel great when you put it on.

But until I see all companies putting as much effort into their women’s designs as their men’s, I’m going to struggle to feel great in pink. Give me bright orange, lime green, stylish grey, navy blue, maroon and gold. Give me zig zags one year and colourblock panels the next. Give me subtle graphics or bold prints. Give me repeating patterns and random splatters. Give me tops that fit boobs and shorts that fit bums. Give me sizing that doesn’t make me want to go on a crash diet. Give me waterproof shorts as well as summer baggies. Once you’ve given me all that, then I might choose to wear pink on the trail.

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